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Updated on Thursday, March 5, 2015
In the spring of 2014, the cost of an average wedding in the United States hit $30,000. Sound like a big, expensive number? It is: a record high, in fact.
It’s also insane, considering the fact that the median salary for Gen Y – pre-tax – is $39,700. Put another way, the average wedding day eats up 75% of the total annual pay of someone in their 20s and 30s.
Here’s the good news: it’s not necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars to plan and execute a beautiful, meaningful event you, your partner, and your guests will enjoy.
Don’t allow yourself to get carried away by anyone else’s expectations or understanding of what your event should look like. There’s nothing wrong with foregoing some of the more expensive elements of the average affair to create a frugal wedding instead.
Here’s how you can do it.
Understand What You Want, Then Prioritize It
Start by logging off Pinterest. Get off Facebook. Tune out (well-meaning) friends and family who say, “oh you just have to have X, Y, and Z!” This will help you gain clarity on your preference and wants, without feeling pressured or influenced by the over-the-top extravagance you may see on social media sites (or from overexcited well-wishers).
Take some time to think about what you and your future spouse want out of your day. Make a list of what’s most important to you, organized by highest to lowest priority. You can use this list when building a budget for your wedding. You may need to skip over items at the bottom of your list entirely to free up funds to pay for what’s more important to you.
Did you come up with some unique priorities on your list when you made it? That’s okay! You shouldn’t be afraid to do things differently. This is your wedding, so be creative with cost-saving ideas, break a few rules so you can ditch big expenses, and do things your way.
Cut the Guest List
A big guest list drives up the cost of a wedding like no other factor. If you want to create a frugal wedding, start by thinking small and intimate. It’s easier and cheaper to host, feed, and entertain a smaller group than a herd of hundreds of people.
This is a day to celebrate your love and union with another person. A wedding should be a special time – but not a show that you put on for the benefit of other people.
That means you don’t need to invite every single person you know. Start with the people you spend the most quality time with, and don’t feel obligated to invite acquaintances or very distant relatives no one in your immediate family has seen in ten years.
Do What You Can Yourself, and Find Volunteers for Everything Else
While Pinterest can drive you crazy when planning a wedding – so many ideas, absolutely no time and money – the site can also provide you with great resources and inspiration for all things DIY.
You can save thousands of dollars if you can create your own décor, floral arrangements and centerpieces, and wedding favors. You can design and print your own invitations, make some or all of the food yourself, and bake your own cake.
For things you can’t do yourself or don’t feel comfortable doing, tap the resources around you. You may have friends or family members who are talented artists, crafters, bakers, and more.
You can even ask people you know to donate a service in lieu of a wedding gift. If you have a friend with a dSLR and a passion for photography, don’t spend thousands of dollars on a wedding photographer.
Another option is to hire an acquaintance if you don’t want to put your guests to work at the wedding. The cost will come out much lower than if you paid a professional established in the wedding industry.
And for those things that you just have no choice but to buy? Consider purchasing secondhand, used, or from retailers that don’t solely sell items for weddings. For example, shop for wedding and bridesmaid dresses at retailers like Target, J.Crew, and ModCloth instead of heading into a bridal boutique or specialty shop.
Say No to the Traditional Gift Registry…
…and try a new alternative instead. Many couples live together before marriage and might already own the household items traditionally found on a wedding registry. Or you and your partner could decide that you just don’t need anyone to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy place settings you’ll never use.
Consider HatchMyHouse.com, a gift registry that allows wedding guests to contribute toward home furnishings, repairs, décor, or a house itself (via the down payment). If you’re happy with your current place, you might want to check out Honeyfund.com. This site allows you to put together a honeymoon trip and wedding guests can gift various travel expenses.
While alternative gift registries might not help you save on the actual wedding, they do exist in the spirit of frugality. Instead of getting a flood of items that will quickly turn from thoughtful gifts to clutter around the house, you can ask guests to help you purchase an experience.
At the end of the day, your wedding is just that: one day out of your entire life. While it’s an important one, think carefully before spending more than you can afford on the event. A single celebration should not put you and your new spouse tens of thousands of dollars in debt that you’ll be paying off for years.
The best way to create a frugal wedding may be to do all the planning with one big idea in mind: if at the end of it all you walk away married to the one you love, your day was a success. Everything else is just icing on the (homemade) wedding cake.